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Transgender man claims Catholic hospital refused to perform a hysterectomy on him. Now, he’s suing.


'I began taking testosterone. I had a double mastectomy. The next step was a hysterectomy.'

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

A transgender man has filed a lawsuit against a Catholic hospital for refusing to perform a hysterectomy on him for religious reasons, Newsweek reported.

The lawsuit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union claims that St. Joseph Hospital in California discriminated against Oliver Knight because he is transgender.

"The refusal of St. Joseph to allow a doctor to perform a medically necessary procedure because the patient is transgender is discriminatory," Jessica Riggin, a lawyer who is representing Knight, said in a statement. "This is a hospital that is open to the general public so even though it's religiously affiliated, it's illegal for them to turn away someone based on gender identity. Everyone should be able to get the care they need."

The hospital is accused of canceling Knight's hysterectomy just minutes before his scheduled surgery in August 2017, according to the lawsuit. The doctor allegedly told Knight that his surgery would not be rescheduled because of the hospital's religious affiliation with the Catholic church.

The 29-year-old, who lives in Eureka, said the hysterectomy was the next step in his transitioning process, according to a blog post published Thursday.

"I began taking testosterone. I had a double mastectomy," he wrote. "The next step was a hysterectomy."

Court documents claim that Knight was denied "medically necessary care to treat his gender dysphoria."

What else does Knight claim happened?

He wrote that he was forced to wear a pink gown while he waited for surgery, which made him feel "like a child":

On Aug. 30, I arrived at the hospital and they checked me in and did the surgery prep, which was extremely uncomfortable and triggering. I was given a pink gown. I asked the nurse if I could have a blue gown, but she told me I was having a "female surgery" and should wear the pink. I felt like a child all over again, sitting uncomfortably in a pink dress. But I forced myself to do it, I had been waiting so long for this.

Knight said he was hooked up to an IV when his doctor delivered the news.

About an hour after waiting, my surgeon finally came to get me. But when I saw the look on his face, I got a terrible feeling. He told me my surgery was canceled. It was denied by the Catholic Church for ethical reasons. I didn't understand how this could be happening. The Catholic bishops didn't approve of my surgery. It seemed unreal.
I had an anxiety attack and thought about all the pre-op and mental preparedness I had to go through just to get here. I freaked out and started crying. I was given medication to calm me down.
Fifteen minutes after that, the hospital staff asked me to leave. I still had booties on my feet as a nurse led me outside. I felt humiliated and queasy as I sat on the curb waiting for my roommate to pick me up.

St. Joseph Hospital was his only option in Humboldt County, he added.

What did the hospital say?

A spokesperson from St. Joseph Health told Newsweek in a statement that it would be looking into the matter.

"At St. Joseph Health, we believe health care is a basic human right and that every individual seeking care should always be treated with compassion and respect," the statement said. "We have not had a chance to review the facts of the case, but take these allegations very seriously. We are committing our full attention to investigating this matter."

Did have the surgery somewhere else?

Knight had the procedure at another hospital, according to the ACLU.

"Knight was hesitant to go to another hospital because he would be farther away from home and unfamiliar with the staff, and it would increase the burden on him and his family," the ACLU wrote. "But he eventually got the surgery at Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata. The delay caused a disruption to his life and a great deal of anxiety."

What else?

Knight is seeking an unspecified amount in damages for allegedly violating his civil rights, negligently inflicting emotional distress, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress, according to the court documents.

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